Testamenty szlachty wielkopolskiej z XVII wieku
TESTAMENTS OF GREAT POLAND GENTRY IN THE 17TH C.
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The article is devoted to testaments of gentry from Great Poland. The last will is analysed as a legal document – a mortis causa deed, since its basic function is to dispose one’s property in the case of death. Nevertheless, in Old Poland there was no opportunity to bequeath all one’s property to a sole beneficiary; in particular the limitations concerned the bequest of immovable property. The article advances the hypothesis a major characteristics of gentry testaments was disposing property by legacies to many legatees. The analysis of sources distinguished vindication and damnation legacies. In the case of vindication legacies, which were more common, the legatee was entitled to claim the object of legacy from the heir as its owner by rei vindicatio. Such legacies resulted in transferring property rights and were the best way to secure the bequest of valuables. In the case of damnation legacies the heir was obliged to act in a specified way towards the legatee. Such legacies did not change property rights, but effected the heir’s liability to the legatee. Through a damnation legacy it was possible to bequeath an object that was to be created in the future. Legacies were often supplemented with particular instructions or conditions. Legatees were often clergymen and Church institutions (especially parishes and monasteries). Objects of legacy were usually livestock, garments and various utensils. It is pointed out in the article that it was not customary in Old Polish testaments to specify all the property of the testator. Therefore, last wills cannot be the sole basis for researching the financial position of gentry and should be supplemented with inventory sources. Finally, the article also signals problems connected with the execution of testaments.
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